2RC2012: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

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Re: 2RC2012: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Postby Baker » 14 May 2012, 08:00

Wild, I totally agree with your second sentence. When we learned the name of their house in Grosse Point was Middlesex, I realised the book was more about a sprawling family story than an interesting exploration of an intersex person.

The incredibly superficial criteria Dr Luce used to judge gender I took as a symptom of the naivete of the seventies. He was supposedly the best at that time, and he showed Callie porn movies? I mean, who amongst us would feel anything arousing by watching a porn movie in the office of a senior medical professional? The fact that he, and everyone else, regarded gender expression in terms of a strict binary was on a par with that, for all that the seventies were supposed to be the age of sexual revolution.

I agree with you wholeheartedly about the Callie/Cal transition. Callie was raised as, socialised as, thought of herself as a girl. But she sees a genetic assay that she is XY and suddenly she becomes male? :roll: Come on. That transition makes so little sense within the framework Eugenides presents for gender as two opposite poles, because it means Callie/Cal has to become totally different from how she was reared. And yet this transition is presented as virtually immediate and by the time of the funeral is complete and Cal comfortable with being male. So, by this measure, would any one of us if we were told we were XY suddenly be able to transform ourselves into a male? Is gender really only a matter of genetics even in spite of physical form? Where does that leave transsexuals? Pretty non-existent.

And, yes, the way intersex people were literally portrayed as the freak show was appalling.

Jo, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I really am.
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Re: 2RC2012: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Postby Nurse Jo » 14 May 2012, 08:32

Baker wrote:Wild, I totally agree with your second sentence. When we learned the name of their house in Grosse Point was Middlesex, I realised the book was more about a sprawling family story than an interesting exploration of an intersex person.


I enjoyed it mostly for the sprawling family story. Family sagas - never fail to bring me pleasure.
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Re: 2RC2012: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Postby Baker » 14 May 2012, 08:39

Trouble for me was that Eugenides made such a big deal out of the genetic mutation. Even the stuff about Lefty and Desdemona was liberally larded with references to the havoc their actions would have on Callie. So, I had the impression the book ought to be read with that mutation and its affects in mind. But when we got to Callie, it was an unconvincing and disappointing mess.
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Re: 2RC2012: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Postby wildlx » 14 May 2012, 08:42

Baker wrote:When we learned the name of their house in Grosse Point was Middlesex, I realised the book was more about a sprawling family story than an interesting exploration of an intersex person.

Yet, Baker, for a while I was still hopeful, since the house is not exactly a "normal" house, being a kind of wannabe Frank Lloyd Wright house but never quite managing to be it. So, in a way, one of a kind.

Baker wrote:The incredibly superficial criteria Dr Luce used to judge gender I took as a symptom of the naivete of the seventies. He was supposedly the best at that time, and he showed Callie porn movies? I mean, who amongst us would feel anything arousing by watching a porn movie in the office of a senior medical professional? The fact that he, and everyone else, regarded gender expression in terms of a strict binary was on a par with that, for all that the seventies were supposed to be the age of sexual revolution.

Actually I took it, not as a representation of the seventies, maybe because I know physicians who still have a view not that far from Dr Luce but as a kind of criticism from Eugenides. Eugenides could have put a lot of stuff in Dr Luce's file, yet that file is quite small and includes that stupid comment on the position of the head of women vs men.

Baker wrote:And yet this transition is presented as virtually immediate and by the time of the funeral is complete and Cal comfortable with being male. So, by this measure, would any one of us if we were told we were XY suddenly be able to transform ourselves into a male? Is gender really only a matter of genetics even in spite of physical form? Where does that leave transsexuals? Pretty non-existent.

Yes, I also found the POV of Eugenides to be completely essentialist. Also, for him gender ambiguity is not welcome. And regarding transsexuals they love the theories that they were genetically marked due to changing hormone levels in utero.
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Re: 2RC2012: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Postby Baker » 14 May 2012, 12:53

wildlx wrote:Yet, Baker, for a while I was still hopeful, since the house is not exactly a "normal" house, being a kind of wannabe Frank Lloyd Wright house but never quite managing to be it. So, in a way, one of a kind.

True, but as with other aspects of the story, Eugenides described the house and then proceeded to do nothing with it. They could've lived in any house and it would not have made a shade of difference to the story.


Wild wrote:Actually I took it, not as a representation of the seventies, maybe because I know physicians who still have a view not that far from Dr Luce but as a kind of criticism from Eugenides. Eugenides could have put a lot of stuff in Dr Luce's file, yet that file is quite small and includes that stupid comment on the position of the head of women vs men.

The idea that any physicians could still hold similar views is horrifying. As for Eugenides criticising the attitude he gave to Luce...You could be right. Luce's analysis of how a person presents as male or female is startlingly superficial and largely based on mannerisms. And Eugenides had Callie lie to Luce to undermine the investigation. In Callie's case, Eugenides is rejecting every influence that goes into determining a gender's interactions with the world other than chromosomal make-up. (I wonder what gender presentation Eugenides believes XXY people "ought" to have.) In line with that, he portrays Callie's transition to Cal happening virtually instantaneously. I wonder if Eugenides wrapped it all up in so truncated a form because he didn't see the need to show us Cal's transition in any detail--because, by golly, if Cal is XY then becoming a male is simply a matter of knowing you have X and Y chromosomes. I wonder that he even bothered having Cal go to the trouble of cutting his hair: because if you believe that someone's gender is solely determined by their chromosomes, then a male with long hair or wearing a dress for that matter would still be unquestionably a man to you, yes?


Wild wrote: Also, for him gender ambiguity is not welcome. And regarding transsexuals they love the theories that they were genetically marked due to changing hormone levels in utero.

Uh?
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Re: 2RC2012: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Postby wildlx » 15 May 2012, 05:35

Baker wrote:True, but as with other aspects of the story, Eugenides described the house and then proceeded to do nothing with it. They could've lived in any house and it would not have made a shade of difference to the story.

True. But he fooled me for a bit !

Wild wrote:The idea that any physicians could still hold similar views is horrifying.

You should talk to some Portuguese physicians ...

Wild wrote:I wonder if Eugenides wrapped it all up in so truncated a form because he didn't see the need to show us Cal's transition in any detail--because, by golly, if Cal is XY then becoming a male is simply a matter of knowing you have X and Y chromosomes. I wonder that he even bothered having Cal go to the trouble of cutting his hair: because if you believe that someone's gender is solely determined by their chromosomes, then a male with long hair or wearing a dress for that matter would still be unquestionably a man to you, yes?

True. I think that you're right in that Eugenides has that belief. Remember that the barber had no doubts whatsoever that Cal was male.

Wild wrote: Also, for him gender ambiguity is not welcome. And regarding transsexuals they love the theories that they were genetically marked due to changing hormone levels in utero.
Baker wrote:Uh?

I'm not certain what you didn't understand. I'm sure you are aware of the theories such as that people are transexual because their mothers while pregnant suffered stress resulting in changes in hormone levels leading to different gene expression and so different brains.
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Re: 2RC2012: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Postby Baker » 15 May 2012, 08:49

Regarding the transsexuals, I was not sure how you were tying that in with the book and genetic essentialism.

[quote="Wild]You should talk to some Portuguese physicians ...[/quote]
Only if they know what happened to Madeline McCann. ;)
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